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Barcelona Neurologist Wins 2022 Dystel Prize for MS Research

March 22, 2022

Dr. Xavier Montalban-- Dr. Xavier Montalban set to be honored for work toward understanding, diagnosing, and developing treatments for multiple sclerosis 

Xavier Montalban, MD, PhD, of the Vall dHebron University Hospital and the Multiple Sclerosis Center of Catalonia in Barcelona, has been chosen to receive the 2022 John Dystel Prize for MS Research for far-reaching contributions to understanding, diagnosing, and treating MS.
Professor Montalban was a pioneer in systematically collecting data from people at the earliest stages of MS and over time, creating a trove of information about the evolution of MS that continues to provide novel insights and new leads. He has led many pivotal clinical trials of disease-modifying therapies including a trial of ocrelizumab that resulted in the first approval of a therapy for treating people with primary progressive MS.
“Professor Montalban’s contributions to understanding MS, improving its diagnosis, and testing ground-breaking therapies have been incredibly important for people living with multiple sclerosis,” said Bruce Bebo, Ph.D., Executive Vice President of Research Programs at the National MS Society, which administers the prize. “For his global leadership and the impacts of his work, he is well deserving of the Dystel Prize.”
Prof. Montalban led the field in using early clinical and MRI data to predict long-term outcomes. His work on the natural history of MS and tracing the meaning of MRI lesions in specific areas of the brain have contributed much to our understanding of MS, as well as informing the development of the McDonald Diagnostic Criteria for MS, which have made diagnosing the disease faster and more precise. He and his colleagues also developed criteria to determine if a person’s disease-modifying therapy is working to better inform decisions for switching treatments.
In support of Prof. Montalban’s nomination, previous Dystel Prize winner Stephen L. Hauser, M.D., said, “He has worked across disciplines, publishing a wide variety of investigations spanning epidemiology, clinical features of MS, diagnostics, immunology, imaging, digital medicine, and especially therapeutics. By singlehandedly inspiring colleagues and especially trainees, he has transformed Barcelona into a global epicenter for MS care and neuroimmunology.”

Prof. Montalban established the first MS center in Spain (The Multiple Sclerosis Center of Catalonia - Cemcat), championing a holistic approach to managing the disease, and incorporating digital approaches to better track individuals’ disease activity. Cemcat contributes major research, high-level care, and excellent training for clinicians and researchers from many countries.
“I am honored and very happy to receive this recognition for my work,” said Prof. Montalban. “It has been extremely gratifying to contribute to progress in our ability to improve the lives of people living with multiple sclerosis.”
He will receive the award and deliver the Dystel Prize lecture during the American Academy of Neurology 2022 Annual Meeting in Seattle on April 3.
Biosketch: Prof. Montalban is chair of the Department of Neurology, and director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center of Catalonia (Cemcat) at Vall d’Hebron University Hospital, chief of the Neuroimmunology Research Group at Vall d’Hebron Research Institute, and Professor of Neurology at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and at Universitat de Vic in Barcelona, Spain. In addition to his leadership positions at Vall d’Hebron, from 2017 to 2020 he was also Professor of Medicine and director of the Division of Neurology at the University of Toronto and Director of the MS Center at St Michael’s Hospital there. Prof. Montalban earned an MD and a PhD in Neuroimmunology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, completed postdoctoral and clinical training at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London (UK), and has an MBA from Esade Business School in Barcelona. Prof. Montalban, a past president of ECTRIMS, is also a Fellow of the European Academy of Neurology, the American Academy of Neurology, and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. He has authored several book chapters and hundreds of papers in peer-reviewed journals.
About the John Dystel Prize for MS Research: The Dystel Prize is given jointly by the National MS Society and the American Academy of Neurology. The late Society National Board member Oscar Dystel and his late wife, Marion, established the Prize in 1994 in honor of their son, John Jay Dystel, an attorney whose promising career was cut short by progressive disability from MS. (John died of complications of the disease in June 2003.) Read more about other Dystel Prize winners.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.


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